TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s a sad and difficult day at News Channel 8 as we mourn the sudden, unexpected loss of one of our teammates.

Chief Photojournalist Paul Lamison passed away on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack. He was just 57 years old. He leaves behind a wife, daughters and several siblings.

Nearly 30 years at WFLA

Paul had a profound impact on us at News Channel 8 — and the Tampa Bay area. Most viewers likely knew him as the man with the best seat in the house, an integral part of our morning team and our eye in the sky in the Eagle 8 news helicopter – monitoring everything from the morning commute to the Gasparilla parade. But to us, he was so much more.

Paul began his journey at News Channel 8 on May 26, 1993. He was firmly behind the camera when he started, where he excelled as an observer and a witness to history – big and small.

A handful of our WFLA team members were with him from the very beginning.

“Ever since we’ve both been here – and it’s been three decades – he’s here with us, and he’s always here,” Operations Manager George Karalekas said. “I guess this might be cliché but people say you see what you get, and that’s Paul. You see what you get. Fun-loving and he’s got his dad jokes and what he shows on the air is what he’s like in person.”

While viewers saw Paul in front of the camera, we got to watch him master the craft of storytelling behind the scenes – shooting, editing and documenting the events that matter most to you.

And he did it all, behind and in front of the camera, with a kind of infectious joy and commitment.

“I got to spend a lot of time with him because he worked the morning shift with me and we’d go out and shoot stories in the field all the time,” Bloom TV host Gayle Guyardo said. “He was like family – and no matter what the day looked like, Paul was there to lift it up.”

A journalist’s journalist

Paul was a consummate professional who took great pride in telling important stories. And while he honed that craft during his nearly three decades with WFLA, he also impacted a generation of other journalists along the way.

“He is a photojournalist beyond measure and just a great person,” former WFLA anchor Rod Carter said. “Beyond all that, he was just a wonderful friend. Even after I left Channel 8 we kept in touch and he was always someone I could depend on.”

“He has such a vivacious personality that he could play it behind the scenes or he could be right in front of the camera lens and light up the world,” Guyardo said.

“That smile. That tall stature. I’m not even going to lie – when I saw Paul come into something, come into a room, there was going to be jokes and laughs and good times,” former WFLA photojournalist Indira Levine said. “That’s the part that’s hitting me. He was kind of a light. He was a light.”

Paul was just a kid when he started at News Channel 8, but he had a passion for the community. He grew up in Lakeland, one of seven siblings, and he never lost sight of those roots.

He cared about his home turf and took great pride in doing things like teaching kids about the job he devoted his life to. Paul cared about telling great stories that impacted real people.

He even found himself the focus of a story once, when he saved his sister’s life after she had a heart attack.

An inspiration to us all

The infectious, larger-than-life, passion-for-everything energy you saw every time Paul was on camera? That was authentic – the real deal.

“The life that he would bring and how he would help me deep-dive into these stories… because a lot of people think the photographer is behind the scenes but we learned quickly with Paul that’s not the case,” Guyardo said. “He has such a huge, vivacious personality that he could play it behind the scenes or he could be right in front of that camera lens and light up the world.”

It was almost like a personal mission of Paul’s to light up the world around him. From his famous foot that he photographed just about everywhere to the way he would encourage kids to appreciate journalism, Paul was one of those rare people who lived big and brought the rest of us along for the ride.

Those who knew Paul for what felt like a lifetime are devastated to lose him so soon.

“I think it’s going to be a big loss for everyone who knew him and even those who didn’t know him but knew him through his on-air talent,” Karalekas said. “He’s gonna be missed.”

“He was a light. Paul was just good people,” LeVine added. “Good, funny – just good people, and my heart goes out to Nerissa and the girls.”

Paul’s cherished family – his wife Nerissa and their daughters – will bear the heaviest burden of his loss. But they too will tell you – that joy, that passion, that light will be Paul’s lasting legacy.